Friday, February 27, 2009

Ewe did what?

My Belgian friend and I cycle together. We've done so once per week for the past year and a half and invariably come home with a story. Our very first ride resulted in a near-miss encounter with a neighbourhood bull.  Typically I return home both physically and mentally exhausted. French is hard enough on its own, let alone at 20kph.   Yesterday's experience, however, was exhilarating and one I won't soon forget.  

We'd noticed the pasture on the outward journey: two dozen sheep, both white and brown, and a dozen or so lambs, sprinting from one end of the field to the other.  Truly the picture of spring, not late February. We commented on how cute they looked, but rode on. It was on the trip home that we paused. A ewe stood apart from the others beneath a lonesome oak. She scratched the earth with her front hooves, then bore down, her sides tensing, her breath held. Again and again, both standing and on her side, she worked until her baby appeared: a puddle of white, slick and still. We watched, waiting. It was born breach and placenta first. After an eternity it moved, just it's head, but it moved. The lamb was alive. Amazing.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Mighty Mouse--the early days

You've had quite a year, my dear. You lost three teeth, ditched your training wheels, and earned your first étoile in skiing. You can even do moguls, a talent which both terrifies and impresses me. (When you get to be a mommy you'll understand.) I like how happy and brave you can be, and how loving and thoughtful you are, too. You are your own little person and I'm thankful for every day I share with you. 

Big hugs and kisses, my little darling. 
Mommy loves you!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Swiss Roots

Apple seedling transplanted in anticipation of our departure, 
one year and 13 days since the infamous snack time

Au revoir Petit Pommier! 
Bon courage

Monday, February 23, 2009

Simple Pleasures: Hints of Spring

Tulips planted with my big girl while the baby was sleeping.

Last Suppers

In less than ten days all our precious belongings will be packed up, the boxes loaded into a large metal container rigged for rail and trans-Atlantic travel. Many of the items will go painlessly: high school yearbooks, laundry baskets, Christmas ornaments and sleeping bags. These will come out on the other side without fanfare and get tucked into just the right spot for future use or reference. Bidding farewell to my kitchen, however, will be an entirely different story.

I like to cook almost as much as I like to eat.  I keep my knives sharp, my spices at my fingertips, my herb garden watered, and my cooking utensils within arm's reach. For a minimum of six weeks I'll be sipping tea from someone else's cups and cooking in a kitchen only described as 'fully equipped' by the most primitive of bachelors. Knives will wobble in their shanks. Paper-thin pots will serve a family of two modest eaters. Spoons will be either too big or too small. Bowls, too. I admit this is not very optimistic or gracious of me, but it's my 'thing.' I don't need a big kitchen, just mine.

Slowly but surely we've eaten our cupboards bare. Here's the meal plan of the week, carefully orchestrated to make the most of what's left in the fridge and larder: 

Pork chops with homemade applesauce, 
potatoes and green beans. 
(See ya, veggies!)

Phad Thai 
(adios rice noodles)

Souvlaki and Salad

Macaroni and Cheese 
(for Mouse's birthday dinner)
Risotto for the grown-ups

Pasta mish-mash à la Jamie Oliver
(tuna, rigatoni, tortellini, canned tomatoes, 
cinnamon, lemon juice, fresh basil, hot peppers, etc.)

After that, there won't be much left.  Move over Mother Hubbard. Make room for the Mighty's.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


It was Wednesday night. I was tired and not at all in the mood for the birthday gathering I'd promised to attend. Tuesday we'd made an offer on a house.  The owners had countered our offer not once, but twice. We'd gone to bed with yet a third offer in the fire.  To say I slept poorly would be an understatement. But the party was for Evelyn's teacher. I would go, impending coma be damned. 

As it turns out the party was for me. Over twenty-five mothers and fathers from Corsier had congregated at a dear friend's home to wish me farewell. Even the supposed birthday girl was in attendance. I was showered with gifts: fondue forks and cowbell napkins; chocolates and cheese. But most importantly, I came away with the knowledge that I'd made friends in a language and culture not my own, friends I will never forget. 

Merci mille fois, mes amis! Vous me manquerez plus que je peux dire. 

I slept better last night. And, wouldn't you know? We got the house!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Girl

"There's going to be a new girl in my class today," Emma said as she put on her shoes Monday morning. 

"How do you know?" I asked, thinking it an odd premonition.

"She came to visit our class before the vacance.  Her name's Camille. She's from France."

I was thoughtful as I put Emma's box of crackers in her bag. "I wonder how she's feeling right now.  It's her first day at a new school."

Emma stood up and took her backpack from my hands. "I don't know.... Scared, maybe?"

"You're probably right."

When we entered the school yard, Emma pulled on the sleeve of my coat and pointed to a blonde girl standing with her mother beside the park bench, apart from the lines of kids awaiting the morning bell. "That's her," Emma said. 

"Maybe you could invite her to stand in line with you," I suggested as Emma carried on toward her classmates. "Maybe she doesn't know what to do."

Emma glanced at the girl from the corner of her eye and back at me, her smile suddenly timid. "No."

The bell rang and Emma's teacher opened the school's front door. Line by line, the classes filed in. Only after all were inside did the new mother and child move from their spot by the bench. I tried to smile my empathy to them at beginning anew, but their eyes never left the school's entrance. A few stride's later, they were inside and a new routine had begun.

By lunchtime Emma was bursting with news. "Sandy and I invited Camille to sit with us sur les bancs." On the benches at the front of the class.

"That was friendly of you.  Good job!" I said, putting some pasta on to boil.

"Camille said we were chouette." Cute.

"Well, you are." They are.

"I told her that soon I'm going to be just like her. New." Emma's voice was confident, not scared. Not yet. 

"You're right," I said, leaning down to kiss the top of her head.  "And I hope you make a new friend as kind as you."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day à la Suisse

Valentine's Day is a decidedly grown-up celebration in Switzerland. Pink and red, heart-felt greetings are reserved for the over-twelve crowd. When I told my Swiss friends of the Canadian tradition of kids exchanging cards with their classmates, they thought it was a tad bizarre. Tant pis! (Oh, well.) Some traditions just don't translate. 

Our family celebrates Valentine's Day with chocolate fondue. Served up with heaps of cut bananas and strawberries, not only is it tasty, but it also doesn't earn any raised eyebrows. It's one tradition we'll carry on no matter where we're living. 

Bon appétit! 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Blogging My Novel: Square Peg, Round Hole

The verdict is in:

Dear Mighty Mom,

Many thanks for your patience while we considered the revisions to Gone and for your enthusiasm in completing them.  "The Supreme Head Honcho" and I both read your revised draft and there are many aspects of your writing which we enjoy.  You took note of our suggestions and the revised version of Gone is more satisfying than the previous draft. 


Thank you, also, for letting me know that you are relocating to the U.S.  I think that the combination of the floundering economy in the UK, some ongoing concerns that Gone might be difficult to place for a British audience and your move conspire to suggest that it would be better for you to seek representation in North America.  I wish you the very best for your move and the very best of luck in your search for an agent and publisher.


Your Close-but-no-Cigar Agency

Reply received 37 days, 16 hours, 21 minutes after submission.  Kind, appreciative, but still a rejection. 


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Favourite Question on My American Visa Application is...

Do you have any specialized skill or training, including firearms, explosives, nuclear, biological, or chemical experience?  

A loaded question if there ever was one...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Blogging My Novel: Basket Weaving 101

There are three major steps to any creative process: 
  1. Conception
  2. Creation
  3. Crafting
Most great ideas never make it past conception. Transforming a concept into something tangible takes courage. First drafts are invariable disappointing if not nausea-inducing. Reshaping that first creation into something worth sharing demands both humility and tenacity. It can take years. Really. All this for a proverbial egg that may never reach the basket of Amazon, Chapters, or Barnes and Noble.  

Do you have it in you? Likely. Don't underestimate yourself. 

Getting one's work out into the world deserves a similar amount of effort. You are trying to find another person who will care about your creation as much as you do.  Take time to learn about the publisher or agency that could one day be representing your work. 
  1. Research their interests and reputation.
  2. Relate to them professionally and in accordance with their guidelines.  Give every indication that you've completed step 1.
  3. Respond to their requests promptly.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 as often as necessary.
I've come to think of it as basket weaving, this hunt for representation.  It's a deceptively difficult, potentially boring, yet highly essential skill.  As for my novel, I've just had another request for a full manuscript.  Yippee! There's hope for my egg yet!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Confessions of a Closet Autocrat

Monday morning I woke at 4:30. Tuesday at 4:00. Wednesday was 3:30. Yesterday was 1:00.

Transition stress has entered the building. 

The upside of insomnia is remarkable productivity: the Christmas ornaments are bubble wrapped and boxed; books have been sorted and bagged for donation; the garden tools are clean and ready for American soil. I've even eradicated my podcast backlog, a true accomplishment if there ever was one.  The down side is that I've been incredibly short tempered and irritable. I'm sure the girls are wondering where their real mommy went to.

On Friday, January 30th, Rachel Melville Thomas, child psychotherapist and host of Kids in Mind on WRS, did a program on parenting styles. She outlined three basic types--autocratic, permissive, and active--and how each style effects child behaviour and self-esteem. Over the course of the show she mentioned an online survey evaluates one's parenting style by assessing both one's beliefs and one's actions. Given that I'm a compulsive measurer and had a solid three hours of quiet time in front of me, I decided to give it a go.  Here are my results: 

Autocratic: Beliefs 11 Actions 16 Total 27/50
Permissive: Beliefs 11 Actions 11 Total  22/50
Active: Beliefs 18 Actions 21 Total 39/50

Both in beliefs and actions I weigh-in heavily toward active parenting, which didn't come as a surprise. That's what makes my behaviour this past week that much more hard to swallow. I have become the quintessential autocrat, barking orders and expecting quick responses. I've not stooped to hitting or name calling, but I've become angry enough to understand the temptation.  Truth be told, I always drift toward an autocratic style by about 7 p.m., but all day is more than any of us can handle. I begin to really dislike myself, and that only makes things worse. 

Last night, I woke at four. This time, instead of getting up, I switched on my book light and read until sleep took over, waking again at seven. I feel better. Most importantly, I'm behaving better, too. 

Sometimes it's really hard to be a grown-up. 

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ready to Fly

I took Honey to the vet this morning for her pre-travel check up.  As usual, she wagged her way through the visit, upending a cup of pens three times with her tail, even before leaving the waiting area.  She was weighed, examine, dosed with a vial of rabies vaccine, and given a treat, all to the thump-thump-thump of her all too feathered hind quarters. We left with a clean bill of health and a vial of homeopathic sedatives for the journey. The United States will be Honey's third country. 

They'll never know what hit them. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


The Captain left for work yesterday with two bags of Christmas lights, a hand blender and hair straightening iron, Peanut's old palace, and a half dozen other electronic gadgets all stuffed in the trunk of the car. A few hours later, a man from Nyon arrived at the door to take away the Captain's armoire. Today I lose my juicer, purchased only a month ago with my first paycheck from the school. Not that we can't take some or all of these things with us--we could--but peppering one's home with transformers is less than ideal. Replacements will be easily found on the other side. (Call me crazy, but I'm looking forward to garage sale season already.) Something tells me I'll have to replace the juicer retail, though. God, I'm going to miss it.

Bon voyage, Solaris!  Parting is such sweet sorrow!

Expiry Dates

Ever since an awful bout of food poisoning when she was three-and-a-half, Emma the Brave compulsively examines the expiry date on all dairy products before consumption.  She was studying a container of UHT milk yesterday when she looked up and said, "Mommy, this milk expires after we're gone." 

I looked over her shoulder. The date read 14.04.09.  

She was right.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Blogging My Novel: Now What?

Just when you think you have enough to worry about, life has a way of spicing things up. Placing my novel has been ratcheted down the priority ladder, what with needing to find a home in a new country.  I'd like to think my work is more marketable where I'm going than where I've been these past five years. Isn't the U.S. the mecca of the children's book industry? 

What scares 'the author' in me most is leaving behind the incredible writers that have helped shape my work into something worth reading. The Birkenstocks, the Geneva Writers' Group, the D.L. Nelson retreats in Argeles, my family... For five years, I've had an unfailing network of support.  Thank goodness for technology is all I have to say. These days out of sight doesn't necessarily mean out of mind.

As for the Long Wait: 26 days, 14 hours, 16 minutes and counting.

I plan to follow up at the end of the week, but I don't believe I've been forgotten. The publishing industry is exceptionally slow and I doubt the current economic climate is doing much to improve matters. Will I mention the pending move? Hmm... I'm not sure. 

What do you think?